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HILLSVILLE — After weeks of campaigning, the tied race for the Sulphur Springs Ward seat on Hillsville Town Council came down to a single sheet of paper on Friday.
Challenger Bill Tate Jr. and incumbent Billy Walls Sr. both had 89 votes in the May 6 town council election.
Members of the Carroll Electoral Board gathered at 8 a.m. on May 9 in the Carroll County Governmental Center, where Tate and Walls had their names sealed in envelopes and put into a box to be drawn at random.
Chance favored Tate, who won the spot on council.
“We were expecting a close race, but a tie was certainly not expected,” said Walls, as the two candidates waited for the drawing to begin. “At least this way, we know that no one was liked more than the other, or hated more than the other.”
Once the drawing was complete, the attitude of both candidates remained somber. “I didn’t want to win like this. No one should win like this, or lose like this,” Tate said.
The two shook hands.
“I didn’t think it was fair to the citizens either. They didn’t get their word in this way,” Walls added.
Both agreed that citizens showed interest in the elections, but Tate noted that the draw could have been avoided had the public been more active with exercising their voting rights. “I know at least 10 of my supporters who said that they couldn’t come [to the polls],” he said.
“I know three of mine who said the same thing,” said Walls.
Votes cast in the Sulphur Springs race totaled 178, with a perfect 50/50 split. The electoral board performed a certification in which the numbers were double-checked for accuracy, but the tie held.
The electoral board consulted the official 2013 Virginia Election Laws, which state in section 24.2-674 that “If two or more persons have an equal number of votes for any county, city, town or district office, and a higher number than any other person, the electoral board shall proceed publicly to determine by lot which of the candidates shall be declared elected.”
Although the race did not end in traditional fashion, both candidates extended thanks to voters who turned up May 6 to show their support.
Tate will rejoin council after previously serving two terms as mayor of Hillsville. He was defeated in 2012 by current mayor Greg Crowder, who also won re-election this year.
Tate begins his next term with Hillsville Town Council on July 1.